Extracorporeal Shock Wave Therapy (ESWT) or Shockwave Therapy is a non-invasive medical intervention employing shock waves to instigate healing and alleviate pain in diverse musculoskeletal conditions. The term “extracorporeal” denotes a process external to the body, where shock waves are generated externally and subsequently directed towards the specific target area.

Table of Contents

What is Shockwave Therapy?

It is one way that chiropractors address joint and tendon pain. It’s effective for treating many conditions and comes with little risk. Some patients choose shockwave therapy for plantar fasciitis, for example. Some elect to undergo shockwave therapy for knee pain, tennis elbow, back pain, and more.

Shockwave treatment is an excellent way to find pain relief without the dangers and tedious recovery time that come with surgery. It’s a natural way to promote healing within the body, exclusively targeting soft tissues.

The treatment method helps injured tissue to release growth factors, helping you feel better after an accident or injury more quickly. Sprains, strains, tears, and more can all benefit from this cutting-edge treatment.

At ChiroCare of Florida, we’re proud to offer shockwave treatment for back pain, joint and tendon pain, and more. Schedule an appointment at one of our locations today, and keep reading to learn more about how ESWT can help you.

The Origins of Shockwave Therapy

Shockwave therapy is not as old as many of the techniques used in chiropractic medicine. According to the National Institute of Health, extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy (ESWL) first came into use sometime in the 1980s, when orthopedists and traumatology experts found that emitting acoustic waves toward tissue injured tissues promoted healing.

As researchers continued to experiment with this groundbreaking new innovation, they were able to document that the techniques stimulated bone healing and improved the pace of other musculoskeletal injuries and conditions. As is the case with most medical innovations, specialty devices came onto the market, which made the treatment more accessible to injured parties.

Today, shockwave therapy is common in orthopedics and chiropractic medicine. Because it is non-invasive, non-narcotic, and effective, doctors and patients often prefer it for conditions where it has proved effective.

Understanding Pain and the Effectiveness of Shockwave Therapy

In order to understand how acoustic waves can mitigate pain, it’s important to examine the causes of pain. Naturally, there are many different types of pain. Most of us know the difference between pain from a burn and pain from a bruise, for instance. But the causes of pain can be a little more nuanced.

  • Damage to your skin, muscles, bones, or organs results in the nerves of the affected area sending signals to your brain. The brain reads these electrical bursts as pain.
  • Nerve damage is also quite common. For example, if you cut your finger, the neural connections in that area are severed. This means the disconnected nerves are unable to send signals to the brain.
  • Far less common are chemical imbalances that cause pain receptors to react without outside stimulus.

There are several other factors that can contribute to pain. Properly diagnosing the nature of the pain allows clinicians to determine whether or not shockwave therapy will work.

How Pain Can Affect Your Quality of Life

Most people feel that having minor, temporary pain is just part of life. They might take a few over-the-counter pain relief tablets or alter their behavior to avoid aggravating the condition causing the pain. When pain becomes chronic (recurring), it can affect every aspect of your life. You should never ignore chronic pain. In addition to being a source of discomfort and distraction, chronic pain usually indicates that an underlying condition exists. Without treatment, it may not improve, or it can even get worse.

Not all pain is chronic, however. Acute pain may feel like a sharp or sudden attack. While it is not continuous, it can be just as debilitating. There are numerous areas where acute pain can occur, and there are many triggers. One common cause of acute pain is a bone applying pressure to a nerve during a particular motion. As is the case with chronic pain, acute pain can be an indication of an underlying condition. Without treatment, it can get worse.

While shockwave therapy is not the answer to every form of pain, it has a surprisingly large variety of applications. If pain is affecting your quality of life, shockwave therapy may be the fast, effective, non-invasive, non-pharmaceutical solution that you’re seeking.

How Does Shockwave Therapy Work?

Patients seeking shockwave therapy usually go through the following process:

Patient Assessment

Before starting shockwave therapy, a healthcare professional assesses the patient’s medical history and conducts a physical examination to determine the appropriateness of the treatment for their specific condition.

Identification of Target Area

The healthcare provider identifies the specific area of the body requiring treatment, often guided by symptoms, clinical findings, or imaging studies.

Patient Positioning

The patient is positioned comfortably, depending on the targeted body part. For example, if treating the foot, the patient may be seated or lying down with the affected foot accessible.

Gel Application

A coupling gel is applied to the skin over the targeted area. This gel facilitates the transmission of shock waves from the device to the patient’s tissues and helps to reduce air resistance.

Shockwave Device Setup

The shockwave therapy device is calibrated and set up according to the parameters appropriate for the patient’s condition. This includes adjusting the intensity, frequency, and depth of the shock waves.

Shockwave Delivery

The handheld applicator of the shockwave device is then placed on the skin above the identified treatment area. The device delivers controlled shock waves to the tissues, which can penetrate to varying depths depending on the condition being treated.

Mechanical Stress and Microtrauma

The shock waves create mechanical stress and microtrauma in the targeted tissues. This controlled injury is believed to stimulate a healing response, promoting blood flow, collagen production, and tissue regeneration.

Treatment Duration

The duration of the shockwave therapy session can vary but is generally relatively short, typically lasting between 15 to 30 minutes.

Post-Treatment Care

After the session, patients may be given post-treatment instructions, which could include recommendations for rest, ice, or other measures to enhance the effectiveness of the therapy and manage any potential discomfort.

Follow-Up Sessions

Depending on the specific condition and the patient’s response, a series of shockwave therapy sessions may be recommended. The number and frequency of sessions can vary based on the individual’s needs and the nature of the treated condition.

Importance and Benefits of Shockwave Treatment

Chiropractic offices offer a fantastic variety of first-line treatment methods that can help you recover from injuries before considering surgery. Your primary care physician or specialist may recommend you try shockwave treatment before progressing to a more serious level of care. Many find it to be effective, with little to no side effects.

This is so important because with surgery comes great risk. Many patients hesitate at the fact of going under general anesthesia and the post-op experience can be brutal. Often, surgery has a long recovery time. You may be out of work and off your feet for quite a while, requiring help with daily activities.

Other risks and downsides associated with surgery include repeat follow-up visits, the changing of bandages, post-operative infection, and more. Instead, try shockwave treatment first. The results can be astounding.

Understanding Shockwave Therapy

Shockwave therapy stimulates your body’s natural healing process. While the word “shockwave” may sound painful and intense, the process is simple and takes place in an outpatient chiropractic setting. What’s even better is that there are no known side effects of the treatment, meaning you can go to each appointment worry-free.

The Process of Shockwave Therapy

Shockwave therapy is an instrument-assisted treatment, where your chiropractor will employ the use of a handheld device to perform the procedure. Your practitioner will hold and aim the device above your skin in the area causing you pain.

The device sends shockwaves below your skin tissue, reaching the tendons, ligaments, and soft tissue beneath. These waves stimulate blood flow and growth hormones in the damaged tissue. This helps your body make new tissue cells much faster than it would without treatment.

Each session lasts approximately ten to twenty minutes, making it a convenient option for those with busy schedules.

Is Shockwave Therapy Effective?

Before deciding to explore the option of shockwave treatment, it’s natural to want to know how effective the treatment is. The Department of Orthopedics and Rehabilitation at UTSouthwestern Medical Center shares that not only is shockwave therapy for back pain, joints, and soft tissues effective, but many patients see results in as few as two to three treatments.

The experts at Boston’s Children’s Hospital, one of the most renowned medical practices in the country, agree. They state this form of regenerative shockwave treatment is an excellent addition when injured patients are looking to explore other chiropractic treatments to resolve pain.

Potential Side Effects and Risks of Shockwave Therapy

As with any medical treatment, while shockwave treatment is virtually risk-free, some patients may experience short-term side effects.

Short-term side effects can include minor discomfort for the session’s duration. Generally, the closer an injury is to a bone, the more discomfort you may experience. Ask your chiropractor about application gels they can use before your session that can minimize pain. Most patients report that any discomfort resolves as soon as the session is over.

It’s also important to note that a specialist should fully evaluate and diagnose your source of pain before starting a session. Shockwave treatment will not work on soft tissue that is completely torn and may cause damage if the therapy is used. Additionally, those with bone-density issues should avoid the treatment as it may can worsen such conditions.

Applications of Shockwave Therapy in Treating Pain

Shockwave treatment is effective for a wide range of soft tissue injuries and pain such as:

  • Tendinitis
  • Calcific shoulder tendinopathy
  • Golfer’s elbow
  • Achilles tendinitis
  • Chronic non-healing wounds
  • Stress fractures
  • Hip pain related to trochanteric bursitis
  • Shin splints
  • Muscular trigger points

Below, we’ll review four main targets for which patients seek therapy.

Shockwave Therapy for Plantar Fasciitis

Plantar fasciitis, otherwise known as policeman’s heel, affects more than 3 million adults in the U.S. every year. It’s usually the result of overuse when the thick band of tissue that runs across the bottom of your foot becomes strained. Pain is typically worse in the morning and presents as a stabbing sensation. It’s common in those who work on their feet, as well as runners and athletes who spend a lot of time on the field.

The National Library of Medicine shows that shockwave therapy for plantar fasciitis is generally effective. From their pool of patients, those suffering from pain reported a reduction in pain and an increase in quality of life at the 3-, 6-, and 12-week mark. Many reported feeling better after just one session.

Shockwave Therapy for Tendonitis

Tendonitis is the medical term for the inflammation of the tendons. It can be caused by the type of repetitive motions you can get from playing sports or working at a job where your movements are repeated. Tendonitis can be painful because the inflammation can apply pressure to the nerves. Shockwave therapy is sometimes effective at treating tendonitis. The acoustic waves can overwhelm the pain receptors in the affected area. Additionally, the waves work to release naturally occurring anti-inflammatory molecules like transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β), interleukin-10 (IL-10), and others.

Shockwave Therapy for Knee Pain

Knees are one of the most common joints in the body to become inflamed and painful. This can be the result of a sporting or occupational injury, overuse, or underlying health condition.

Shockwave therapy for knee pain is becoming more popular, particularly among athletes who want to get back in the game as quickly as possible. The therapy is shown to do more than reduce pain–patients see lower levels of inflammation, greater range of motion, and less stiffness upon completion of treatment.

Shockwave Therapy for Tennis Elbow

Tennis elbow affects more than 200,000 adults in America annually. The condition is caused by overuse and repetitive motion of the wrist and arm. The injury causes primary pain on the outside of the elbow that sometimes continues down the outer forearm and worsens with movement or lifting heaving objects.

The condition causes swelling of the tendons that are responsible for bending your wrist backward. That’s why shockwave therapy for tennis elbow is so effective–it significantly reduces inflammation, helping the pain to dissipate and the tendon to heal.

Shockwave Therapy for Back Pain

According to the Health Policy Institute at Georgetown University, more than 16 million Americans struggle with back pain. In fact, more than 80% of adults report suffering from back pain yearly. Back pain can be the result of countless conditions and causes.

From poor posture and improper sleep support to injuries to overuse and strain to spinal subluxations to soft tissue pain, there’s a significant need to help Americans feel better.

Shockwave therapy for back pain helps target stiff, sore muscles. When muscles in the back, neck, and shoulders are tense and stiff, it can prevent the spine from aligning properly. This can cause the vertebrae to become misplaced, leading to aches and pains.

When those soft tissues are treated using shockwave therapy, the muscles become looser, making the spinal column easier for a chiropractor to adjust. This can help relieve stress, have your back feeling better, and maintain the proper spinal alignment that’s essential for so many aspects of human health and wellness.

Shockwave Therapy for Rehabilitation After Surgery

Because shockwave therapy promotes tissue healing, many surgeons and doctors are recommending it as part of the post-surgery recovery process. Shockwave therapy helps to reduce pain by overloading pain receptors, which means that patients often don’t require the same levels of pain medication they would without ESWL therapy. Additionally, shockwave therapy has been known to reduce inflammation, which is helpful in the healing process.

After orthopedic surgery, physicians will often recommend ESWL to accelerate bone healing. It can also help to break down scar tissue, which is common after an operation. Shockwave therapy is not always recommended after surgery, and your surgeon may advise against it.

Patient Experiences and Case Studies

There are many case studies surrounding shockwave therapy that outline patient experiences and outcomes. As an FDA-cleared method of treatment that’s been in use since the 1990s, there’s lots of positive information to support the treatment method.

One study found astonishingly impressive figures; 76% of participants had a success rate after one treatment, while 56% of those requiring additional sessions found relief.

Another report states that when combined with physical therapy, shockwave therapy was effective for patients regardless of age, gender, or length of symptoms. The study relied on self-reporting and noted “significant improvements” in pain.

Frequently Asked Questions About Shockwave Therapy

These are some of the most common questions about shockwave therapy we receive at ChiroCare of Florida. For answers to your specific questions, make an appointment at the Chirocare office nearest to you.

How Long Does Pain Last After Shockwave Therapy?

Every person’s medical condition is unique. Some people walk away from a few shockwave therapy sessions and no longer feel any pain. In other cases, shockwave therapy may reduce the pain without eliminating it.

Shockwave therapy’s effectiveness depends on numerous factors, including the intensity of the pain at the onset of treatments, the treatment area, the intensity of the sessions, and the underlying cause of the condition.

Is Shockwave Therapy Suitable for Chronic Pain Conditions?

This depends on the type of injury of the patient, other conditions that may exist, and the likelihood of success. For chronic pain conditions, we would examine the underlying causes of the pain. Even if shockwave therapy isn’t likely to improve the underlying condition, we may still recommend it for pain management.

Does Insurance Cover the Cost of Shockwave Therapy?

Most plans do not cover shockwave therapy. However, many insurance policies cover Chiropractic care. Consequently, when you deduct the cost of your appointments, It can still be a cost-effective form of pain management or rehabilitative therapy.

What Should Patients Do if They Experience Persistent Pain After Completing Shockwave Therapy?

You should always inform your doctor of any pain you experience. Shockwave therapy involves aiming acoustic pulses at extremely tender areas, so a little pain is normal. If you feel that the enhanced pain is persisting, inform the technician before your next treatment. They may be able to adjust the device for your comfort.

Finding a Qualified Practitioner for Shockwave Therapy

Finding a well-qualified practitioner for shockwave therapy is essential. At ChiroCare of Florida, our providers hold Doctorate of Chiropractic degrees and undergo extensive, continuous training on all methods of therapy.

When looking for a provider, consider the length of practice, patient reviews, community reputation, and personal preferences such as gender, location, appointment availability, insurance coverage, and more.

How to Prepare for Your First Session

Preparing for your first shockwave therapy session is simple. Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that allows your chiropractor easy access to the area they’ll be treating. Speak with the office beforehand to get information on insurance coverage and any out-of-pocket costs associated with treatment.

At your appointment, expect to review your medical history, information regarding injuries and past surgeries, and future treatment goals and expectations.

Schedule an Appointment Today

Contact ChiroCare of Florida, we’re here to provide you with information and treatment with shockwave therapy. We have shockwave therapy devices in-office, to perform treatment at your convenience.

We work with many insurance providers, including Medicare, so getting the care you need is easy. Additionally, we offer many ancillary services like physical therapy, wellness plans, acupuncture, and more so we can create a truly custom treatment plan just for you.

Visit us at a location near you today!

Start Today & Get Back
To What You Love

Don’t let pain keep you from living life to its fullest. Fill out the form below to put yourself on the path to a healthier, pain-free life.

MM slash DD slash YYYY